06/21/2014 02:31 pm ET Updated Aug 21, 2014

Boyhood Opens BAMCinemaFest and Other Summer Movies: Third Person and Begin Again

Wisdom has it, summer is for action thrillers, rom-coms, and other popcorn movies, but this season is particularly rich. Last week's opening night for the BAM CinemaFest set the tone of excellence with Richard Linklater's epic masterpiece Boyhood. With stellar performances by Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke as divorced parents, the film, shot in a dozen years, follows the growth and maturation of their two kids, played by Ellar Coltrane and the director's daughter Lorelei Linklater. But this is "boyhood," and therefore Ellar Coltrane's film. A family saga unfolding in 2 hours and 45 minutes, the film is so deeply satisfying, the way a great novel takes you into a fully realized world. Perhaps it is a bit early to predict the award season picks, but this film has the vision, scope, Oscar dimension. At the BAM after party, directors Julie Taymor, who just completed filming her extraordinary Midsummer Night's Dream, Bennett Miller, just back from the success of Foxcatcher in Cannes, and Oren Moverman, now editing his new film in which Richard Gere plays a homeless man, all agreed about Linklater's achievement.

Paul Haggis' Third Person is another film with novelistic ambition. In perhaps his best movie to date, Paul Haggis imagines the inner life of a fiction writer. Liam Neeson heads a stellar cast including Olivia Wilde, Adrian Brody, Monika Atias, James Franco, Mila Kunis, Maria Bello, Kim Basinger, and Loan Chabanol, in intertwining narratives that have become the writer/director's signature style. As he has said in interviews, he just let his characters go wild, and in the end, we realize the novelist's narrative strategy resembles the unfinished, spontaneous pulse of life itself.

John Carney's Begin Again stars Mark Ruffalo and Keira Knightley, agent and talent in the music business. But Keira's character is much more, navigating the city on her bike, rescuing every other character with wisdom, confidence and grace, even when her own world seems shaken beyond repair when her rock star boyfriend (Adam Levine) cheats on her. The superb cast includes Hailee Steinfeld, Catherine Keener, James Corben, Cee Lo Green, and Mos Def. A prediction: This will be the summer's biggest crowd pleaser.

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